Invasive fish species both naturally and purposely introduced to places are being added to menus everywhere to help reduce their populations.
When fish are added to ecosystems that don’t belong there they can cause many issues to native species.
This is mainly due to the fact that there aren’t any natural population control to stop the fish from taking over. Many end up turning the food chain upside down like the lionfish and blue catfish have.
Blue catfish were originally only native to the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. This species of catfish can grow over 100 pounds and live to be 30 years old.
In the 1960s they were introduced to Virginia’s James, Rappahannock, and York Rivers for something new for anglers to go after. This was soon realized to be a horrible decision as they bred and spread like crazy in their new environment.
These catfish now make up over 75 percent of the fish in these rivers. They have become the apex predator of the food chain eating everything including blue crabs, eels, mussels, and the numerous other fish they now coincide with.
As of right now, around three million of the blue catfish are caught every year in Virginia. Experts trying to reverse the damage done say that in order to make any real difference in their populations almost 30 million pounds need to be caught each year.
Chef and owner David Gaus of the Bayou Bakery in Washington D.C. may have a way to use all that fish. He was persuaded to add the blue catfish to his menu almost six months ago and has had great success. He adds the meat from the fish to his spicy stew served with rice.
Gaus said he was surprised the first time he tried it. “It’s not like the catfish I was raised on in Louisiana. These fish are eating rockfish and blue crabs, so that’s what it tastes like.”
Lionfish are another invasive species that are terrorizing ecosystems in the Atlantic Ocean. These beautiful but dangerous fish were only found in the Indo-Pacific, but they have somehow made their way into the southeast coast of the U.S., the Caribbean, and parts of the Gulf of Mexico.
Lionfish have very few predators to keep them in check and are rapidly feeding on small crustaceans and snapper and grouper young. Another chef, Thomas Tennant, in the Cayman Islands decided to take action after he heard of the problems they were causing.
He turned them into a delicacy at the restaurant he works at called Micheal’s Genuine. He posted signs up around Camana Bay where the restaurant is located saying, “Big, small, we’ll buy them all.”
This has spurred up local fisherman and divers to target the fish to be sold to him.
Tennant cooks the small lionfish fillets into a coconut-based chowder with greens, pumpkin, and breadfruit. It took a few months for guests to trust what they knew to be a poisonous fish, but now they love it. He has since created two more dishes that highlight the lionfish.
The popularity of the lionfish has caused other restaurants in the area to add them to their menus as well. They are even helping fight the issue in the Caribbean by having the captured fish imported to the islands to be cooked.
These are not the only invasive species currently being cooked up around the world. Other species being looked into are the Asian carp, Louisiana crawfish, jellyfish, and snakeheads. A contest in Oregon called the Eradication by Mastication Cook-off pushes cooks to use the invasive fish in their dishes to win prizes.
I guess in the end the only way to fix these mistakes will be to possibly introduce a new predator to the environment to eat the invasive fish. That or we all need to grab our forks and eat them to beat them.